New park chief says it’s OK to be seen as a “mafia figure” if poachers fear him

Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn, the newly-appointed director of the Office of National Parks, declared today (Wednesday) that he would not mind being seen as a “mafia figure”, if it wouldstrike fear in the hearts of illegal loggers and poachers.

The former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi Province assumed office as the director of the Office of National Parks today, to a warm welcome from his colleagues and subordinates at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. Red roses and bouquets of flowers adorned his office.

Chaiwat has been embroiled in multiple controversies, including the alleged torching of an ethnic Karen Ban Bang Kloi village in the park and the enforced disappearance of Karen activist Porlajee Rakchongcharoen.

After going through the highs and lows of his career, Chaiwat told Thai PBS that he is glad to be returning to his old home,to protect national parks, the flora and fauna.

He insists that he is not a “mafia figure” and his job is to try to increase the forest cover in the country, from 31% to 40%, adding that, if someone views him as a “mafia” because of his no non-sense crackdown on poachers and illegal loggers, he would not mind at all.

He pleaded with the public to trust that park rangers will not bully settlers who occupied land before it was incorporated into a national park.

The new national park chief insists that he is not answerable to politicians, nor is he their lackey. “Politicians have never helped me and I am not submissive to them. I am ready to confront anybody who threaten my forests,” he said.

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